Saturday, January 25, 2014

Libya updates January 25 , 2014 - Egyptian diplomatic staff seized in Tripoli, embassy prepares to evacuate -- retaliation for the arrest in Egypt on Friday of the head of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room (LROR), Shaaban Masoud Khalifa, also known as Abu Obaida Al-Zawy ? A report from Congress’ Interior Committee says that 643 people were killed in Libya in 2013, mostly in assassinations and extra-judicial killings. The figure is said to be a significant increase on 2012. ....... Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani had ordered revolutionaries to “eliminate” alleged criminals resisting arrest in the Warshefana area and pro-Qaddafi forces in Sebha. .... Sarir oilfield attacked , power lines cut.......Political dramas continue , PM Zeidan still in power ( so to speak ) but toothless as ever.....

Sebha still awaiting military support

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 27 January 2014:
No military reinforcements from the north of the country have yet arrived in Sebha, despite government promises and media reports.
Sebha’s military commander, Mohammed Alayat Al-Busaify told the Libya Herald that no troops from outside the area had arrived since fighting first broke out on 11 January. Any securing of the town had so far been achieved only by local forces.
Busaify said that army troops sent from other towns and cities in the country were now stationed in Jufra, some 250 km away from Sebha. It is not clear why these supporting forces have remained at Jufra despite arriving from last week.
The official spokesman of the General Chief of Staff, Ali Al-Shaikhi confirmed to the Libya Herald that the troops were still in Jufra but declined to give the reasons for this, saying it was “classified information.”
Busaify said that Sebha was expecting supporting forces to arrive later today.

Murzak hospital struggles to cope with Sebha wounded

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 27 January 2014:
Murzak hospital has asked the government for urgent medical supplies and aid as it struggles to cope with the wounded being brought in from ongoing clashes in Sebha.
Manager of medical affairs at Murzuk hospital Mohammed Ali Whamer told the Libya Herald that 32 injured Tebus had died in the hospital, which has also given medical treatment to 91 wounded.
Murzak hospital was unable to provide the level of treatment the critically-injured needed, he said, adding that some of those who died, could have been saved at a different medical institution.
Whamer said the size of the hospital and its limited resources and medical supplies meant it was ill-equipped to respond to the current crisis, which sees daily admissions to the hospital.
The hospital had sent a number of letters to the Ministry of Health demanding urgent medical supplies, he said, although it had not yet received any response.

Temporary suspension of international flights to Sirte airport

Tripoli 27 January 2014:
International flights to and from Sirte have been temporarily suspended for administrate reasons.
Flights were suspended yesterday, upon request from the Libyan Civil Aviation Authority (LYCAA) over matters relating to regulations, according to Libyan news agency LANA.
Domestic routes and medical-related flights will be operating as normal, said the coordinator of Sirte International Airport Moses El-Edressi. Local flights between Sirte and Tripoli are still running on Sundays and Wednesdays, and the airport is otherwise working as normal.

Reyayna Local Council head assassinated

Tripoli, 27 January 2014:
The head of Reyayna local council, Issa Mohamed Ahmed Al-Ajrab, was assassinated last night by masked gunmen.
Ajrab was shot while he was checking on council matters in the town, according to Libyan News Agency (LANA). Another person who was with Ajrab was injured in the shooting.
Eye-witnesses told LANA that masked gunmen fired a hail of bullets on Al-Ajrab before fleeing the scene of the crime.
An investigation has been launched.

Egyptian diplomats set free after LROR head released

By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 27 January 2014:
The five Egyptian diplomatic staff kidnapped at the weekend have been released today, and are now in the care of the government authorities, waiting to be repatriated to Egypt.
The release came after the arrested head of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room (LROR), Shaaban Hadia Al-Zway, arrested in Alexandria on Friday, was released by the Egyptian authorities.
“All five Egyptian diplomats have been released and they are in good health,” Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Wafa Bugaigis told the Libya Herald. She said they were now in safe hands but that she was unable to give further details for security reasons.
Bugaigis confirmed that Al-Zway had also been released in Egypt and said the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs was now arranging the repatriation of both the Egyptian diplomats and Al-Zway.
One of the kidnappers of the Egyptian diplomats phoned the Arab news channel Al-Arabiya on Saturday night and gave the Egyptian authorities 24 hours to release Al-Zway.
It had been reported by Egyptian media that Al-Zway was arrested on suspicion of being affiliated with Al-Qaeda. However, today the Egyptian Interior Ministry released a statement saying that he was arrested because his Egyptian residency had expired, raising questions about why he was still in the country.

Resigned J&C Party ministers to stay in post for next fortnight

By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 26 january 2014:
The five Justice and Construction Party (J&C) ministers who resigned last week are to stay in post for a fortnight until replacements can be found.
Oil and Gas Minister Abdulbari Al-Arusi, Housing and Utilities Minister Ali Al-Sharif, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Salam Guaila, Economy Minister Mustafa Abofanas, and Electricity Minister, Ali Muhairiq resigned last week over what they said was the government’s poor performance.
“Prime Minister Ali Zeidan asked the resigned ministers to stay in their positions for two weeks so he could find replacements,” a member of the executive office of the party, Mohamed Harizi told the Libya Herald. Initially the ministers said they only wanted to stay for a week, he said, but reached an agreement to stay for longer, giving the government more time to find replacements.
“All five ministers will stay in their posts and run the ministries until handing over to the new ministers in an official ceremony,” said Harizi.
Two of the five, Oil Minister Al-Arusi and Youth and Sports Minister Guaila, attended today’s extraordinary cabinet meeting.

GNC to cut funding and investigate Qaddafi supporters overseas

By Ashraf Abdul Wahab.
Tripoli, 26 January 2014:
State employees and students overseas deemed to have supported the former regime are to see their salaries and funding cut, and proceedings brought against them by the General National Congress (GNC).
GNC decision No. 13 of 2014, effective as of Friday, suspended state funding to Libyans overseas thought to have acted against the 17 February Revolution. Congress has also instructed ministries and government bodies to make names of those suspected of involvement in pro-Qaddafi activities available to the relevant authorities.
Libyan embassies, in particular, have been ordered launch investigations into any pro-Qaddafi demonstrations and report these to the General Prosecutor.
There have been several reports of demonstrations abroad in support of the former regime over the past week, including in Britain, Egypt and Malaysia, where large numbers of Libyan students are in receipt of government bursaries.

Towns from Sirte to Benghazi could face water shortages within days

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 26 January 2014:
Towns and cities from Sirte to Benghazi could be without water within days after power failures in the south have left pumping stations unable to work.
One of the main transmission lines connecting southern power stations to the national grid was severed on Thursday’s armed attack on the Sarir oilfield, leading to severe electricity shortages in the area.
This, as well as disruption to the Sarir power station, had stopped water extractions from the Sarir and Tazerbu basins, fed by the Man Made River (MMR), Head of the MMR technical affairs department Abdisalam Belashaher told the Libya Herald.
A water storage facility at Ajdabiya was now the last source of running water for people in towns from Sirte to Benghazi, Belashaher said. With the current rate of consumption, the MMR authority expected the water there to last three or four days maximum, he added.
Staff from the General Electricity Company of Libya (GECOL) were doing their best to repair the damaged lines and restart the Sarir power station, Belashaher said.

More Egyptian diplomatic staff seized in Tripoli, embassy prepares to evacuate

By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 25 January 2014:
Four more staff members from the Egyptian embassy in Tripoli have been kidnapped, following the abduction of a man understood to be the embassy’s administrative attaché last night.
Spokesman for the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Said Al-Asoud, told the Libya Herald that, at dawn this morning, the cultural attaché and three employees from the Egyptian cultural centre were taken.
The Egyptian ambassador to Libya, Hesham Abdel-Wahab, confirmed that five members of staff from the embassy had been kidnapped. He said one of the kidnapped men had telephoned the embassy and confirmed that all five abducted men, who were taken individually, were being held together and were in good health.
The rest of the diplomatic team would leave Libya today, Abdel-Wahab said, adding the the Egyptian government was sending a specially-chartered plane for the evacuation.
The kidnappings are believed to be in retaliation for the arrest in Egypt on Friday of the head of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room (LROR), Shaaban Masoud Khalifa, also known as Abu Obaida Al-Zawy. “Now the Egyptian government is dealing with the situation and negotiating with Tripoli’s LROR,” Abdel-Wahab said.

643 people killed in 2013: Congress report

By Ashraf Abdul-Wahab.
Tripoli, 24 December 2104:
A report from Congress’ Interior Committee says that 643 people were killed in Libya in 2013, mostly in assassinations and extra-judicial killings. The figure is said to be a significant increase on 2012, although no details for that year were disclosed. According to UN figures, however, there were 176 intentional homicides in Libya in 2012.
The reason given for the high level is that the country is full of guns and there is no effective police force. The result is that criminals can act with impunity and “crime is now a way of earning money”.
Although the report did not specifically state that some revolutionaries had turned to crime, it stated that most weapons remain in their hands. 
It added that with quarter of a million policemen on the state’s pay roll there was one policemen for every 30 people.
In Italy, the figure is one for every 417, and one for 307 in the UK.
Another factor in the rising crime was that despite more police being trained only 29.6 percent of the revolutionaries who fought in 2011 have been integrated into the security forces.
The figure of 643 killed is thought to be on the low side. In addition to well the publicised political killings, notably in Benghazi and Derna, there have been many murders linked to related to thefts. It is not clear if it includes those killed in inter-communal clashes. 
The figure of 643 give Libya a murder rate last year of 10.7, still well below that in most African countries and Latin American states.

Grand Mufti calls on revolutionaries to “eliminate” criminals and insurgents in Warshefana and Sebha

By Ashraf Abdul- Wahab.
Tripoli, 24 February 2014:
Libya’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani had ordered revolutionaries to “eliminate” alleged criminals resisting arrest in the Warshefana area and pro-Qaddafi forces in Sebha.
Speaking by phone in TV yesterday, he said that the criminals and insurgents “threaten the social cohesion, peace and security in our Muslim country, Libya”. In the absence of effective state power, the revolutionaries were duty bound to attack them and destroy them, he ruled. Anyone who did not or did so half-heartedly was deviating from the faith, he declared. Anyone who protected or sheltered the criminals should also be considered one of them, he added.
“These gangs and criminals have gone too far in their banditry, behaviour and crimes of robbery,” he ruled. “They have now became a threat to Muslims all over our country.”
Given “the important role of Dar Al-Ifta in clarifying the Quranic opinion in this matter”, he declared that “revolutionaries must besiege these criminals and eliminate them so as to prevent injustice, immorality and corruption prevailing in the land of Libya and in order that our revolution is not in vain in the face of the acts of these gangs and outlaws, which are contrary to the teachings of Islam”.
The criminal gangs were being supported by associates of the Qaddafi regime, he said, and it was a duty “imposed on you by your religion and the Sunnah of the Prophet” to destroy them.
Anyone who wanted to leave the conflict areas must be given safe passage, he said, but those who chose to stay with the criminals and insurgents had to be treated as one of them.
Separately to the Grand Mufti’s hardline fatwa, the Research and Religious Studies Council of the Dar Al-Ifta ,which he also heads, together with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Religious Endowments and three other religious organisations, issued a statement calling on the government and the General National Congress to use “an iron fist” against the pro-Qaddafi rebels in the south and elsewhere, as well as against  criminals throughout the country.
Calling the events in Sebha “a setback to the revolution’s progress”, they called on revolutionaries to unite and defend the country internally and externally.  The government and Congress had to support the revolutionaries because, until a national army was operational, they were the only forces capable of ensuring security.
In the case of the conflict in the Warshefana area, however, the government and Congress appear committed to dialogue rather than force. 
Confirming earlier reports of a security forces pullout from the district, the Prime Minister on Wednesday said that mistakes had been made on both sides and that police would now take over security instead.
However, fighting yesterday again intensified.  The director of Abu Sleem Hospital, Sami Hanish, told Alsssema TV said that in the past two days, 28 people had been admitted. Five had died and six other had undergone major surgery.  

Sarir oilfield attacked, power lines cut

By Jamal Adel.
Tripoli, 23 January 2014:
The Sarir oilfield was attacked by an armed group this evening and, during clashes with army units guarding the field, a main power line connecting the Sarir power station to a number of towns and cities was cut.
Heavy weaponry was used in the attack and missiles were fired into the oilfield, Saleh Mohammed, commanding officer for the army’s 25th Brigade, which is responsible for guarding a number of facilities in the region, told the Libya Herald.
He said that no oil tanks were hit in the clashes, during which army troops were able to repel the attackers, but that a main power line was cut. This line, he said, carried power into the national grid, connecting the Sarir power plant with Benghazi and a number of towns including Kufra and Jalo.
The attack is thought to have been part of ongoing clashes in the region between the Zwai and Tebu tribes. These have been destabilising the area and led, on Monday, to workers evacuating the Sarir power plant, leading to its temporary closure.
Earlier today, Fraj Bu-Jufool, the head of the self-named ‘Operation Room for the Liberation of the South’ – an armed group from the local Zawi tribe – announced that he, along with another group called 427 Brigade, had liberated the Sarir and Messla oilfields.
This was denied by spokespersons for the army units at the two oilfields. It now appears that when Bu-Jufool made the announcement, his forces were actually preparing for this evening’s attack.
It is believed that the attackers were from the same armed group which attacked Sarir farm  – an agricultural project north of Kufra – on 21 December.

GNC empowers Abu Sahmain with ‘Commander-in-Chief’ duties

By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 23 January 2014:
President of the General National Congress (GNC) Nuri Abu Sahmain and his two deputies have been empowered with Commander-in-Chief duties to deal with the continued clashes in Sebha and the overall deteriorating security situation.
The GNC commissioned Abu Sahmain, first deputy president Saleh Makhzoum and second deputy Ezzdin Awami in a unanimous vote this week. They will have Commander-in-Chief powers for a one-month period. This was initially misunderstood by some media sources to be reinstating Abu Sahmain to the actual role of Commander-in-Chief, a position he briefly held in 2013.
“It is not true that Abu Sahmain has been appointed Commander-in-Chief again,” National Security Congressional Committee member Sulaiman Al-Haj told the Libya Herald. “That commission was pulled from him because it did not have the required quorum.”
Al-Haj said that the main reason for this latest commission was because of the increased security problems now faced by the country, especially with regard to the unrest in Sebha. Military decisions needed to be taken swiftly, he said.
“If they want to change or pass any laws, they will have to put these before Congress, but for urgent security matters, they can make the decisions,” Benghazi Congressman Alaa Magarief told this paper. He added that decisions would be made in conjunction with military authorities and the government.
In August 2013, Abu Sahmain appointed himself Commander-in Chief, without putting it before the GNC. He was forced to hand the role to Minister of Defence Abdullah Al-Thini later that month, after Congress members said it was wrong for him to hold two positions of power.

Zeidan asserts that Sebha is under control – more troops on the way

By Sami Zaptia.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confirmed today that (Photo: Sami Zaptia).
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan confirmed today that more troops were on the way to Sebha (Photo: Sami Zaptia).
Tripoli, 22 January 2014:
The Prime Minister confirmed at today’s press conference that Sebha is now calm and that it was under control.
He confirmed that some military forces had arrived there yesterday and that more would be arriving today. Zeidan said that two Ministers, including the Justice Minister, as well as the Head of Intelligence, had visited Sebha.
He assured the public, saying that they should not be alarmed , adding that whilst there were still pockets of lawbreakers, they were only isolated pockets rather than huge numbers.
He explained that the new Libyan order had been lenient with these groups, leaving them to carry on with their lives amongst the rest of their local citizens, but now that they had used arms against the new state, the authorities had to take action.

This is democracy, cabinet reshuffle soon – Zeidan

By Sami Zaptia.
The Prime Minister unusually  held his press conference at the Ministry of Electricity today (Photo: Sami Zaptia).
The Prime Minister unusually held his press conference at the Ministry of Electricity today (Photo: Sami Zaptia).
Tripoli, 22 January 2014:
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan chose to appear alone today at his regular press conference. It is not uncommon for Zeidan to appear on his own at his press conferences, however, he has often brought out an array of Ministers to participate in them, giving a show of strength, and especially during times of crises.
The public, and mainly the media, was anticipating a show of strength – a lineup of loyal Ministers, mainly from the National Forces Alliance, having survived a GNC vote of no confidence yesterday
What was intriguing about today’s press conference, in view of the week of politics that Libya has undergone, was its location. For some reason the Prime Minister decided to hold today’s press conference at the Ministry of Electricity. This set the (often cynical) media pack speculating.
This Ministry is headed by Ali Muherieg, considered to represent the Islamist Justice and Construction (J&C) party and one of five Ministers the J&C has announced it will pull out of the Zeidan government, having failed in the attempt at a vote of no confidence yesterday.
Was the Minister of Electricity going to announce his resignation and explain why at the press conference? Or even more intriguingly, was he going to announce that he was not going to resign – and provide Zeidan with a political victory. Alas, no Minister whatsoever appeared with Zeidan at the press conference.
With that in mind, Zeidan was asked if he could confirm if any Ministers had officially tendered their resignations at the cabinet meeting just prior to the press conference.
Zeidan refused to confirm or deny any resignations, adding in a curt reply that the media should “ask them that question”. It is not clear why Zeidan chose to answer the question in that manner. The J&C had issued an official statement clearly saying it was going to withdraw its Ministers from the government.
Zeidan’s terse reply could reflect his unhappiness at their withdrawal, or conversely his unhappiness at the fact that they might have failed to hand-in their resignations at today’s earlier cabinet meeting.
At lunchtime today, the official confirmations by Ministers in person of their resignations, or otherwise, were still awaited by the country with anticipation.
Regarding the failed attempt to launch a vote of no confidence in him by the J&C, the Loyalty to the Martyrs’ Blood bloc and some independents numbering around 99 GNC members, Zeidan simply said that this was “democracy” adding that “we must accept” the process.
The Prime Minister insisted he still had the support of the GNC and that if it were in the public interest, he would readily give up his position. In fact, he added that he was keen to give up the post – but not at the cost of the nation.
He claimed that those who supported and elected him in the GNC “insisted that he continued in power.”
” I will not let them down”, Zeidan retorted.
However, he later contradicted himself, saying that “if there were a (an agreed) replacement”, he would leave his post “even if (all) 200 GNC members supported” him.
Moreover, continuing on the same subject, Zeidan repeated his previously repeated pledge that he will not be part of a caretaker government. A caretaker government would be formed as soon as his government was voted out and it would have no authority to initiate any new policy, and would make a government even more ineffective.
Zeidan questioned the claim by his opponents that they numbered ninety-nine. He said that he had received “a number” of phone calls from GNC members alleged to have signed his opponents’ statement, some of whom insisted they were not even in Tripoli.
The Prime Minister confirmed that there would still be a reshuffle of cabinet “soon”, but insisted these were for “non-political” reasons, naming the Foreign Minister as one of those posts.
It will be recalled that the Prime Minister had announced at his 8 January press conference that there would be a cabinet reshuffle within two weeks, saying that a number of Ministers no longer felt comfortable in their posts.